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Schumacher pledges to be team player in Malaysia

NEW world champion Michael Schumacher has promised to do all he can to help team-mate Rubens Barrichello claim third position in the drivers' championship.

The German wrapped up the drivers' title with a victory in Japan two weeks ago and, just to spoil everyone else's end-of season party, claims to be feeling more relaxed than ever for the race at Sepang as he also bids to help the Ferrari team to constructors' championship glory for the second consecutive season - a feat it hasn't achieved since the turbocharged days of 1983.

"I needed three days to recover after the party in Suzuka but I am very relaxed now in a different way to last year," Schumacher said after famously raising the rafters of Japan's karaoke bars after his first title in five years.

"I have fulfilled my championship, and last year I was very tense over the fact that I hadn't been able to have a proper chance. The aim now is to get the constructors' championship and Rubens to third."

Any strategy could yet fall into the new gray area in the regulations however. Prior to the Japanese GP it was declared that tactical blocking - such as Schumacher employed at Sepang last year in order to keep then-teammate Eddie Irvine's title hopes alive - will result in a possible three-race ban. The new champ remains bullish however:

"I am 31, I have seen waves of emotions - good and bad - and I am still able to enjoy these and I want to continue with them."

Brazilian Barrichello needs to win the race with McLaren's David Coulthard finishing outside the points if he is to take third place in the order. The 'bronze medal' is however the target Barrichello set himself at the start of what he described as a 'dream debut year' with the Maranello-based team.

"Third is something that isn't actually a position - it is the motivation," Barrichello said. "It is going to be difficult.

"My first season with Ferrari has been good. We have created a good team and we have done really well but next year is quite far away to think about.

"The experience I have gained this year means I can work better. I have shown everyone what I was capable of. I have driven a competitive car in F1 and that has been my goal in F1. My aim was to be the hardest team-mate he has ever had, I think I have been that."

Ferrari's sporting director Jean Todt warned his drivers to be cautious - even though they need just three points to lift the constructors' championship.

"We are taking nothing for granted," Todt said. "We know we have to be very concentrated and very careful."

"We only need three points to win the constructors' title, but we have seen this year that sometimes it is difficult to score three points when you need them."

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